Monday, June 22, 2009

The Cherry Tree.

It looked like a stick. Skinny, fragile, and short. A stick. I remember my father digging a hole, and gently patting soil around the stick. He put up stakes and roped it off so as to not accidentally hit it when mowing the yard. He warned us kids to stay clear. It was the first tree he had planted at our home. The yard was a barren wasteland of dirt clods...and here was this stick...just sticking there.

Over the next five years the stick began to was joined by many other sticks..some made the cut..others were cut down. My father doted on his stick..and it responded by growing up...filling out...getting bigger. My father loved his stick, but he was worried..this stick refused to bloom. No matter what he did, it never produced a single flower. My father's stick was a Japanese Cherry Tree. I remember his watching the Cherry Trees blooming in Washington, DC. That should be what his stick was didn't.

One day, my Father came home from work..and there...near the tippy top of his stick was a single white and pink flower. He was so excited, and called us all outside to gaze at this single pathetic flower. Over the next few years the tree teased him...shooting out some awesome floral displays...but never producing a single cherry.

When I was 10 we took a trip to Stone Mountain, Georgia. I loved that was just so historic. When we returned my sisters were the first to notice the miracle. They both yelled "Daddy, you have cherries!!" Sure enough that tree was loaded to the brim with little green cherries. They were super small, but they were there. My Dad just stared in amazement. He put up a net to keep the birds and small kids away. Everyday he would check on those cherries, he would pick the ripe ones, and give them to us. They were sour..not exactly that good. To him they were just the most awesome thing he had seen.

Over the next three years that tree threw itself into making my Dad happy. Although he grew a great many strange and unusual things, nothing made him happier than that tree. Then one day the most horrible thing happened. I went out to shoot something and noticed the tree covered by a huge cocoon of silk..inside the silk were these little worms. The worms were having a good time eating the tree. My Father tried everything he could think of. He pulled the worms off, sprayed the tree, but in a few days they were back. Finally, the tree died.

My Father cut the tree down, dug up its roots, and burned it. The next day, my Dad planted another stick. It was another Cherry Tree. He has had many productive seasons with that tree, but it is the first tree that he talks about the most.

My Father has taught me a great many things...some of them on purpose...most by accident. His perseverance in growing that tree was the most important for me. After years of waiting, pruning, spraying, and praying the tree finally responded. When it died he didn't give up and plant another apple tree, we have tons of those. No, he planted his first love.

In this country we face many struggles, at times it is easy to feel that we will never see the fruits of our labor, nothing is happening fast enough. We spend way too much time lamenting those things lost, and not enough time taking the positive steps we need to nourish our country. We become easily sidetracked by other issues, we fail to stay the course. If we continue to actively prune, spray, and pray one day our country will produce the fruits of freedom. Our tree died of neglect, but it can be replanted again. Have faith in your power to make the change...don't just stand something.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Consider the Snowflake

Consider the Snowflake. They sparkle like diamonds as they gently float to Earth. In a relatively short amount of time they can cover up an ugly landscape and turn it into a Norman Rockwell painting. When viewed from a distance the Snowflake seems small and insignificant. Just like everything else in this universe the laws of physics control the Snowflake.

The laws that the Snowflake must follow control everything about it. From its unique structure, no two are alike, to its size; the Snowflake is not free to just do as it pleases. The Snowflake can only be about one quarter inch in diameter*. This is good for you and me. A three-foot Snowflake would slice through the air like a Ninja throwing star and skewer people, animals, and other important stuff. This is bad for the Snowflake.

The Snowflake considers its job to cover the Earth in a blanket of white. The larger the Snowflake the more efficient it can be in doing that job. In fact, if left to its own devices the Snowflake would grow so that a single flake could cover everything in one fell swoop. Once the Snowflake has everything covered in a blanket of white its job is not over.

As a child growing up in North Carolina snow was a treat. It meant school would probably be closed. It also meant that my once familiar world was transformed into something totally different. Standing on our back porch you could hear shotgun blasts. That is the sound tree limbs make as they break off and crash to earth. Snowflakes were conspiring to kill the trees.

One of my earliest memories was begging my mother to let me go play in the snow. She would explain that it was cold out there and I would just want back in the house as soon as I got out there. That didn’t matter to me… the Snowflakes wanted company.

Most Carolina snow is only a few inches deep at best. If it makes it through the day it is lucky. One year, I guess I was about five; there was a layer of snow two feet deep. Of course I wanted to go play in it. My brother who was three wanted to go too. My mother had a problem. We didn’t own snow boots.

Owning snow boots in North Carolina is like owning a sled. The chance that you will need them is slim. Two little boys who had developed snow fever now faced my mother, and she needed something to protect our feet. My mother improvised. She tied bread bags to our feet. I know, bread bags are probably not the best option, but she was learning this whole child-raising thing. Our mother wrapped us up in nearly every piece of clothing we owned and opened the door.

I stepped out onto the front porch and then jumped as far as I could into the waiting arms of my Snowflake friends. I was covered up to my waist in fluffy goodness. That is when I discovered the first issue posed by so many Snowflakes. The Snowflake restricts freedom. As I tried to move forward, the Snowflakes would grab me…they tried with all their might to stop me from moving forward...they stopped me from moving backward… they had me in their grasp and wanted me to stay right where I was.

I tried with all my might to move my feet… the Snowflakes ripped the bread bag off my right, and then my left foot… they then took my shoes off… then they took my socks off… in short order I was barefoot and exposed to their icy grip. I turned to head back to the safety of the house.

I looked over at my brother…the Snowflakes had removed his bread bags and shoes…being shorter than I they were also taking his pants. I struggled to crawl toward the house. Of course I had to help my brother so I pulled him along as best I could. The Snowflakes would not kill him…that was my job.

After what seemed like an eternity we made it back to the porch. Our mother was waiting for us and let us in. She was laughing. We were soaking wet, bare foot, and very cold. Our friends the Snowflakes were not that friendly.

When our father got home he wanted to know why there were bread bags and shoes stuck in the snow. My mother explained, and they both laughed. My brother and I were not that amused.

Consider the People. People shine like diamonds when they arrive on this Earth. In a relatively short amount of time they can transform a barren landscape into something of beauty. When viewed individually they seem insignificant in the vast universe. Just like the Snowflake, the number of people that can exist is controlled by the Laws of Nature. If left unchecked people could eventually overwhelm our planet’s ability to provide for them.

Unlike the Snowflake, People actually do have desires and needs that must be fulfilled. Obviously all People need food, water, and shelter. People are very complex. When I fully understand them, I will let you know. What I do know is this. People need society.

People suck at being solitary creatures. They need companionship, and that thing we call Love. It is for this reason that People form societies. These societies reflect the groups overall outlook on life, and provide security for the individual. Societies allow the people to create some spectacular things. Just like the Snowflake Societies can grow too large and the weight of society causes it to break down. It destroys what it was meant to protect.

Unlike the Snowflake, people are resilient. They can, and have shown the ability to create new forms of organizations. These organizations embrace the individuality of people, and create rules for interacting while allowing for freedom of individuality. We call these organizations Government.

Consider the Government. A good Government can shine like a diamond. A good Government can provide a Norman Rockwell like existence for its people. A good Government can provide order in a disjointed world. Just like the Snowflake Government is controlled by laws that limit its size.

A good Government provides for the basic security of the People, while allowing for the maximum freedom of the individual. A good Government provides coordination between people from different societies. A good Government recognizes the sovereignty of the people.

On September 17th, 1787 a document was created that would change not only a Nation, but in time the entire world. It begins with a bold and unmistakable phrase.

WE THE PEOPLE. The U.S. Constitution recognizes the supreme sovereignty of the people. It is the document created by the people for the people. It is the protection of the rights of the individual. It establishes rule by law. It protects the people from those who would become tyrants. It limits the role of Government on our lives and protects the creativity of the individual.

The problem with America today is not its Constitution. The problem is not the form of our Government. The problem is the People. Over time we the People have allowed our Government to take more and more responsibility, and in turn our rights. We have skewered the basic tenants of our society with special interests, become side tracked by arguments best solved at the local level; we have become lazy and complacent. We have done the very things our founding fathers warned us of. We The People have allowed Government to become tyrants!

It is easy in these times to throw up our hands and say it is over for us. I can assure you I have never ever surrendered to anything. I can also assure you there are many, many Americans who feel the same way.

On April 15th 2009 over a million American’s gathered to send notification to our Government that we were ready to retake our Nation and enforce our right as the Sovereign Power in this Nation.

The Tea Parties were held in the same spirit of the original Boston Tea Party. They served notice that we were no longer unarmed victims of Government Tyranny. That WE THE PEOPLE were now arming ourselves to overthrow out of control Government growth, overbearing Government interference in our lives, and reckless fiscal irresponsibility.

Our Politicians are on notice that your political parties are worthless to us. We demand you remain accountable to us, not some platform of your choosing. We will use every legal method to hold you to accountable.

We know this will not be easy. Few things in life are. We enjoy the struggle…you however will not. Government should not fear us…Government should FEAR us. We no longer request that you hear us…we DEMAND your obedience.

I have been asked what should the Tea Party Movement do next.

First of all everyday you should be swarming every member of your City, County, State, and Federal Government with emails, phone calls, and snail mail. EVERY SINGLE DAY. Demand a response.

Secondly, You should seek out other like-minded people in your local area and join in public protests. Our group is planning to be visible at every possible public event. To include a large presence during the 4th of July.

Thirdly, Vote. VOTE! For people that you have researched. Talk to them directly. If they will not talk to you while running for office then it is highly unlikely they will not talk to you once elected. Make sure they believe as you do.

Finally, Talk to everyone about how you feel. Now is not the time to be bashful. You have something important to say, and you have a right to say it.

There is too much riding on our future to remain silent!!

Unlike the Snowflake we will not melt away after a day. We will strip you of your bread bags, shoes, socks, and pants. We will leave you wallowing in the snow like a helpless five year old until you come running back to us.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Parable

One of the unique benefits of belonging to Toastmasters is the opportunity to leave with more than you brought in. The inspiration for a particular thought often comes from the most unlikely speaker. In this case the speaker was not the best I have seen. However, the task they faced is one of the most difficult for any speaker.

The speaker had to present a famous speech, and present it as the original speaker had. The speech they chose came from a speaker that had not been recorded. So, interpreting the emotion, phrasing, and proper inflection would be extremely difficult. The speaker did a decent job. However, that is not what caught my imagination. In this particular case it was the message.

The original speaker had used a parable as the center piece of their message. It is a parable that has value today. So, I will interpret that parable as it was presented to my mind. May God have mercy on your soul.

"A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal,“Water, water; we die of thirst!”

The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, “Cast down your bucket where you are.”

A second time the signal, “Water, water; send us water!” ran up from the distressed vessel, and was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.”

And a third and fourth signal for water was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.”

The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River."

In our present times it is easy to feel adrift and lost in a sea of confusion, frustration, and anger. Fear is a word that is thrown around like it is candy. We see our leaders in Government making decisions that are certain to doom us to an inevitable destruction. If that sounds dramatic...good...that is what I intended.

There has been and will certainly be times in American History in which our country will need all of its Patriots to respond. This time is in no way different. But how do we do respond..what should we do?

We feel that the only way to take control is through large media outlets..or large gatherings. This causes confusion, frustration, anger, and most sinister of all Fear to grip our hearts. At no time should we act from the point of emotion. It is not only counter-productive, but exactly what "They" want us to do.

History teaches us some lessons about how to deal with large sometimes insurmountable tasks. Lets look at one issue that makes us feel small. The Main Stream Media. How do you defeat this large ugly monster?

Lets face it, they have the bucks, the faces, and control of what goes out to the masses. So, who else faced this challenge? The answer to this problem comes from a freaky dude in Russia. V.I. Lenin faced this very challenge. How could he possibly get his message to every corner of such a huge country? How could he fight the strength of the Czar?

"Cast down your bucket where you are!"

There was no way Lenin could possibly get his message into the hearts of the Russian people all on his own. Instead he built he built a network of people that went to each town, hamlet, and settlement throughout the empire. He got neighbor talking to neighbor. Who are you going to trust, a talking head, or your neighbor?

"Cast down your bucket where you are!"

Tea Parties are a great idea...good place to get information..get pumped up. But when you return home it does no good to talk to the world about it. Get up off your ass and walk next door. Talk to your neighbors, talk to your family, talk to your friends, talk to strangers, talk to your town. Do it often. Do it intelligently. Get others to do the same.

"Cast Down Your Bucket Where You Are!"

You can slay the mass media with a single presentation. The mystery of the man behind the curtain, the facade of the slight of hand tricks can all be exposed by you! One person at a time. The exponential growth of truth can overwhelm the slick presentation of a trained spin clown in mere moments just by talking to someone. Don't fight them...just tell them...and move on. Be Clear. Be Persistent. Be Truthful.

"Cast Down Your Bucket Where You Are!"

Note: The phrase "Cast Down Your Bucket Where You Are" comes from Booker T. Washington in his 1895 Atlanta Compromise speech. Long before Rev. King, Mr Washington understood the vast and alienated workforce that the south was ignoring. Had the south heeded his advice there is no telling where this nation would be today. His parable holds the key to our growing success.

References: "Atlanta Compromise" Booker T. Washington

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fort Benton. My History Trivia

My first contact with Fort Benton, Montana was when I was first stationed in Montana. I always thought of it as the town in the hole. Literally it you have to drive down a pretty steep hill to reach it. As we would pass by on our way to missile sites you could just barely see it. I always thought to myself, I should stop in and visit it one day.

Flash forward 6 years. I had been subscribing to a history magazine, and one issue (which I need to find) had an article about the Mountain Howitzer. The Mountain Howitzer was a small cannon that was intended to be easily transported, and as the names suggests used in mountainous terrain.

Designed in 1839, and redesigned in 1841, this small cannon was used during the Mexican-American war, the American Civil War, and the Spanish American War. One soldier had joked that it was too small to call a cannon, and too big to fit in a holster.

At the end of the Civil War the United States turned its attention to "settling the west." This brings us to Fort Benton. Fort Benton is known as the "Birth Place of Montana." This name is rightly deserved. Before the trains connected the west you could jump on a paddle wheeler and sail from St. Louis to Fort Benton. From Civilization to The Rugged Frontier on a floating bar and casino.

A Mountain Howitzer found its way into the hands of the Military Unit in Fort Benton.* Like all military personnel someone was looking for a way to make using the weapon more efficient. They had proposed the idea to their commanders..and it was accepted.

The Black Feet Nation could have wiped Fort Benton off the map if they had so chose, but the Military Commanders, and citizens did their best to stay on good terms with the Black Feet. The military commander had taken to inviting the Black Feet leaders to meet with them from time to time. So they invited the Black Feet to a meeting, and the military commander would show off his new cannon. The Black Feet were not naive. They had seen cannons before, and were fully aware of the capability of a cannon, as well as, its short comings.

The problem with Cannons is you have to use horses to pull the cannon, horses to pull the ammunition, and have an entire pack train available to keep them supplied. Setting up a cannon requires you to unhitch the horses, block the cannon so it does not jump all over the place, load it, and sight it. Until the weapon becomes 'seated' it is not that accurate or fast.

The Black Feet were some of the most skilled horse fighters the world has ever seen, they were aware they could avoid the cannon. This is where the new tactic comes in to the picture.

As the various Black Feet leaders gathered, an Army mule was brought out to the edge of the river. Strapped on the back of the mule was the disassembled Mountain Howitzer. An Army officer explained how the new cannon could be transported by just one mule. In fact, it can even be loaded and fired while still strapped to the mule.

With that two soldiers held the mule, butt end faced toward the river, and an officer lit the fuse.

Whether it was the hiss of the fuse, or the mule realized what was about to happen, no one will ever know. The mule began to rear up and buck. All the while the muzzle of the cannon was swinging wildly. The soldiers decided this was a bit much, and ran for cover.

When the smoke cleared the mule had gone to that quiet pasture in the sky.

As the Black Feet dusted themselves off, one Chief commented that "there are easier ways to kill a mule." They left the meeting unimpressed. Thus ended the U.S. Military's first attempt at a mobile cannon system.

A simple lesson can be drawn from this, always practice your presentation before you actually present it.

A second lesson would be "Think things through." I am not a mule expert, but using a mule as a platform for a cannon is not that good of an idea.

President Obama is pretty good at practice. Thinking things through...not so much. I direct your attention to Iran and the Soviet Union.

* I have been unable to find out what Military Units were stationed in Fort Benton..if you know I would love that info.

Fort Benton History
1841 Mountain Howitzer
U.S. Military History Magazine (still trying to find it).

NOTE: A visit to Montana is not complete without a visit to Fort Benton. It is along the wild and scenic portions of the Missouri River, and the fishing can be very good. Thanks to my international and U.S. Friends for requesting I write this. More to come later.